This is the first in a new series of interviews where one artist interviews another, five questions each. I’ve been on the road with School Of Seven Bells, hearing their daily interviews, and I’ve noticed too many similar questions keep coming up again and again. I’m hoping that the artist/artist format can give readers a better idea of what’s on the artist’s minds. I’ve also asked each artist to two songs which they’ve been listening to, all of which are posted above.
MUX MOOL INTERVIEWINS SHIGETO
Mux Mool: You are a classically trained jazz musician, and one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen. Working with live instrumentation is a very free and motion oriented art form. How was making the transition to a computer? How did that change come about?
Shigeto: Well let’s see. First of all, thank you and secondly it was kind of an accident actually. I think it was in 2003 when i started to develop chronic tendonitus in both of my arms, mainly a result of drumming with poor and self taught technique. my only “classical” training was in college so most of my life was spent using my own technique that put a lot of strain on my arms. It got to the point where it hurt to brush my teeth or lift a cup of coffee. I couldn’t play. It was horrible. At that time I was living in London and my brother was visiting from Michigan. I was telling him about how I no musical out let and I was super depressed. Within ten minutes he had installed Reason 2.5 on my computer. He said “why don’t you start messing around with this?” I fell in love instantly. I loved the fact that I had complete control and instant results. I loved that I didn’t have to call three dudes up to practice, have two show and up late and one not come at all. I loved that I finally had an out let for all my ideas that had been brewing for years. I think because it was by chance that my brother got me going and I had no expectations, it made the transition more fun, easy and natural.
Mux Mool: You grew up in Ann Arbor, the city where Ghostly started. You must have idolized many Ghostly artists, how did you feel when you were finally signed? Also, what was it like growing up in a town where everyone makes beats? It’s more popular than skateboarding there.
Shigeto: Ha ha, it does seem that way doesn’t it? I think those questions are completely related. Growing up all my friends were musicians. Whether it was production, jazz, rapping or anything else it was always around me. If it was anything it was influential. Ghostly was in a way my introduction to “electronic” music. I was a serious jazz and hip hop head growing up with a bit of Squarepusher and Richard D. James sprinkled in. When I first heard Dabrye 1/3 and the first Idol Tryouts it flipped my mind. Joining the Ghostly family is a dream come true. I never even saw it as a possibility. I’ve had a Ghostly sticker on my computer, cd case or car since 2000 so that might show you how much it meant.
Mux Mool: You’re also one of the nicest, most genuine guys I know, not just in the music world, but in the entire world. Your music is deeply personal and very sincere. The industry of music can be a soul sucking, shallow place on every level of it. How do you deal with that?
Shigeto: Right back at ya Mux. I think I just try to be as real as possible with others and surround myself with good people. I have faith in people. I hope that if you treat others with respect, most of them will respect you in return. There will always be industry bull shit and haters but if you have a strong core “family” you will help each other to succeed. We’re all trying to make a living with our art. It’s a hard path to take so being a hater isn’t gonna help anyone.
Mux Mool: You have lived all over the world. Even I’ve seen you in a bunch of places in America. Why did you decide to move back to NYC after a seemingly difficult first run here? What keeps you here? Would you ever consider living anywhere else?
Shigeto: I love New York. There is no place like it. However, I know I don’t want to be there forever. I moved back for several reasons. One, I missed it dearly and had a strong network there that I had formed in my previous years there. Two, Moodgadet and Ghostly had offices there and there was much more going on. Playing the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor every month can get a little old. Three, my girlfriend had a strong desire to attend culinary school there. Four, I had to do it right. Now that I’m back, have a car and work, life is good. I’ll be around for the next couple years at least. I have good friends in New York and enough stimulation to last a life time. In the end though, I hear Detroit calling me. It’s whispering “come back and buy a massive loft, have a studio and a small cafe or something and settle down.” Who know’s, so much has happened in the last year it’s hard to tell.
Mux Mool: I know that in addition to your passion for music you have an in-depth knowledge of cheese and a very real love of food. Has good food ever inspired you to make music? Also, how/why did you get into cheese of all things?
Shigeto: Food hasn’t ever really inspired my music. Food is more of an escape from my music, much like sketching or drawing for you I imagine. I think it’s important to have more than one passion or you can burn yourself out. I had never considered going into food before ( my father has worked in the food industry for a long time ) but how I entered it was lucky and very much needed. I was in NYC at the time my life was going in a downward spiral. I was a young slacker, wasting time and doing to many drugs. I was on the phone with my father and he knew something was up. He said he had a good friend in London who ran a cheese shop in London and said I could escape and go work for him. I was like “cheese? London? sure, why not?”. I went on a six month visa and ended up staying for three years. It was in London where I found myself, grew up, learned to cook and started producing my own music. Those three years changed my life forever. I feel the best things in life is family, friends, food and music. If I have these things, I’m a happy man.
Part of me really wanted to keep it real and ask how you get so much shit done when you’re so high all the time. But I don’t want anyone taking that the wrong way. And I know you’re not high ALL the time, but like, almost anyone I know who smokes even on your level is lazy as fuck. I dunno. I’m working on my answers. I’ll have the rest to everyone tonight.
SHIGETO INTERVIEWING MUX MOOL
Shigeto: What we do is often associated with late nights, excessive drinking, the smoking of substances and pretty much all around unhealthy activities. You are one of the few (that i know anyway) musicians in this scene that has chosen to stay clean and sober. I’ve always been under the impression that music in a way was a saving grace for you and played a large roll and you’re decision to stay clean. Has your success over the past few years made it harder for you to do this or has it inspired you even more to continue on this path?
Mux Mool: Well, the real bottom line is, if I had continued to drink I would very likely be deceased right now. If it hadn’t killed me, it would have made me depressed, and broke, and an all around loser. I should add that, that is NOT how I feel about ALL DRINKING it’s just how I view my own drinking habits. But, once I got sober, I really got my head straight and I asked myself what I really wanted out of life, and I really wanted to make music/art and be creative and tell everyone and just basically do the damn thing the way I had been imagining it since I was 3 years old. By the time I figured my life out, I was already a bit older than some of the kids in the scene, and I knew I had to work harder to get myself out there. It’s been a long series of serious sacrifices because I love what I’m doing. So, my personal growth has been matched my obsessive creativity. They are all parallel. And from my starting point, which was waking up in a hospital either in restraints, or just unable to move, to where I’m at now, has already been the most amazing fucking journey. Like, I’m not worried about so many things because, if you knew where I was at, and you see me now, I’ve already won everything, and my gratitude for that cannot be broken.
Shigeto: Skull Taste was a compiled of tracks from different periods over the last couple of years. Some quite old, some newer. Various styles were represented in this album as well. For your next opus, will it be all new material? Will there be any sort of message? a more focused sound in one direction? or will it be diving even deeper into the multi-genre kingdom you’ve created for Skull Taste? Either way, I’m stoked.
Mux Mool: I am no master of music. We are all students, every day until we die. My focus on each release (in a broad sense) is to show improvement. I keep getting better at it, and I want to show that. Most of SKULLTASTE were songs made with no intention behind them. I just sat down and made a song. I mean, there were no release plans, no artwork, and no titles even. Now days, I don’t just think in those small terms. I’m more capable of making whole ideas. It’ll be more personal, and perhaps more clear and less scatter brained. Many reviews of skulltaste cited that it was “schitzophrenic” but I didn’t think it was all that weird for producers to make different kinds of songs. Look at rock and roll, you got fast songs, slow songs, love songs, happy songs, drinking and drug songs etc… Why do we keep ourselves in a box EVER?!?! Let alone a box with a window that’s on 85-100 BPM? I love all kinds of music, and I guarantee many different styles will be showcased on the next album.
Shigeto: We are both part of a new generation of “internet” based musicians. We are constantly informing the world of our doings via Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc. It gives us easy access to our fans, peers and anything else that we consider to be important or helpful to our success as artists. The internet has made it easier than ever to sell and promote your own music, start a record label or whatever… do you feel this shift in the industry is for better or for worse? Is there more original, quality music available or just more and more people out there calling them self a producer because they have a studio on their computer? Trust me, this is a mental battle for me personally. I know that I am a part of this change…
Mux Mool: It’s funny that you ask because things are so much better and so much worse at the same time. When everyone can make songs, and everyone can post them everywhere, and everyone can download them for free, it’s like musical anarchy. It really truly is. The good parts are that anyone can express themselves with it now, everyone can have an audience, and everyone can carve out their own little following. I think that’s great. I also think it’s forced record labels to have to adapt and really changed up the system of how things work. Basically, the book on how to make it in the music industry is being completely re-written right now. I think the best part about the change, artistically, is that since NO ONE is making money, the most listened to music goes straight back to the people. Kids don’t care about that shit anymore, they just listen to what they like to hear. And music that stands out, stands out because it’s great, not because some label has a money machine going that pumps out the same jams all the time. Look at soundcloud, they have their own celebrities there.
Now, the downside I think to all of this is that, it’s a new and difficult path where you don’t get as many rewards as you go along. The money is tighter BY FAR. Lots of great record labels and music stores have just disappeared, which is also a serious loss. And that loss is due to a world of kids stealing music, and putting out their terrible records themselves. And in the minds of many kids, they think it’s great to take away the gears of a corporate music machine, but they don’t realize that all they’re doing is taking that power away from one industry, and feeding right back into apple through itunes and google. The internet is an amazing thing, it’s the collective subconscious of the world, allowing us to instantly know everything ever known. But we must remember that it is STILL OWNED by someone who doesn’t care about you.
The ultimate challenge now is that all these artists are busting their asses to innovate in every direction of the game. Producers are learning how to DJ. DJ’s are learning to produce. Everyone is absolutely hustling so hard to find new ways to make it work, and there are no right answers yet. It’s like all media is in the midst of a mini-revolution. It’ll be exciting to see how this changes over the course of our lifetimes.
Shigeto: In the past couple of years LA has gained national attention for their “beat scene” and now can really call what they have their own. It’s a great thing in my opinion. Not many places can call something their own (Detroit Techno, Chicago House, etc.) I feel NYC has a different thing going on. Less community. You along with Machine Drum, Praveen, Elliot Lipp and myself are the leading reps for New York for our “scene” but it seems the “scene” is less strong. How do you think we can better ourselves and get more of a community formed on the east coast? Do you think a stronger sense of community will help? Do you think we need it?
Mux Mool: It’s funny that you say “less strong” because we aren’t lacking in any kind of strength, what we lack is a community, and a figurehead for entire thing. The answer to this question ties in some of the other questions. There is no such thing as a local artist anymore, because that music goes everywhere once it touches the internet. The guys you listed here only live in NYC, but we all play in other places, a habit that has grown out the need to make money from playing shows. Sometimes it’s hard for us to combine forces when we’re all in it for ourselves. What I mean is, a lot of us are just barely making it. So it’s hard for us to even support each other. I do think that NYC is about to come up though. We got our own thing going, and we’re all starting to talk about it.
Shigeto: Last but not least. Being an artist of any kind, especially a musician i find that we have a constant battle with self doubt. whether we express this out loud or bottle it up I assume it’s there for most of us. Sometimes I find the more success we have the stronger the fear becomes. It’s like a never ending battle with meeting your own and everyone else’s expectations at once. Sometimes I feel like people straight up don’t like me and hate my music ( real talk here ) Do you ever feel this way? If so, how do you deal with these insecure, dark and obviously ridiculous feelings. Any suggestions for us out there?
Mux Mool: I can relate to this on so many levels. I wouldn’t say that the feeling is ridiculous though. I think that that feeling is absolutely vital to the process. If we all thought we were the shit all the time, none of us would try as hard as we do. My motivation stems more strongly from fighting these feelings, and my enemies, than it does from any positive reinforcement. In terms of recommendations, I can only say what works for me, and that is to remove everyone and everything else from each equation. When I’m stoked on something, that’s all that matters. A lot of times these things get out of control in your head. It’s important to just keep things relative. Nothing is as good as it seems, and you’re never as bad as you feel. It’s also important to remember that EVERYONE feels this way. Even people that seem really confident have these thoughts. Sometimes the most confident people are just compensating for their deep insecurities. When everything comes crashing down, and you don’t know what to make, or play, or tweet, or say etc… Just do you…
Mux Mool song choices:
Eliot Lipp vs Nintendo 64 – Goldeneye Eliot Lipp Remix
Donkey Kong Country Soundtrack – Aquatic Ambiance
Shigeto song choices:
Charles Trees – Mahjongg
Mount Kimbie – Tunnelvision